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Time to Write; Time to Recharge

The amount of recharge time you need is entirely reasonable
(image of a purple dragon sleeping on a mushroom)

It’s November. For those of you who’ve known me for a while know that I started off my novel-writing career by completing NaNoWriMo (national novel-writing month) two years in a row… over a decade ago. Every year since then, I’ve teetered on the will-she/won’t she fence, trying to decide whether I have the time and energy to repeat that process.

This year, I have other plans. I am honoring one of my few “friendships based on virtue” with spending time co-writing a novel. We’re starting chapter five already. It’s a completely new process for me–and strangely freeing. It’s even greased my mental wheels enough that the sharp-eyed among you might have noticed my word count on book three has crossed 1K.

Given that our shared genre falls within the full span of Scifi/Fantasy, it’s not uncommon for either of us to take research and real places or events and twist them through our own filter. So it annoys me when I read something that tells me all the reasons my brain is malfunctioning when I get vibes about particular times or places. Yet that research adds grist to my mill, too, since it would be an excellent explanation for why paranormal beings in our fiction are able to successfully obscure themselves from humanity.

Of course, time as a construct has its own issues. Which could be a different explanation for the ways our brains convince us of the extra dimensions around us. And today, naturally, is the end of the current year’s “Savings” time. I’ve railed about that stupidity enough over the years, and there was a glimmer of hope this year that the US legislative branch might settle into one time zone year round, but the House hasn’t taken up their side of the work. And now we’re in the midst of election theater, so the window is narrowing, and seems less and less likely. In the meantime, I also ran across an article about optimizing work time by minimizing distractions, and planning for deep focus periods.

Which has an interesting parallel in the land of fiction writing: Unless you carve out and defend your writing blocks from such enticing Internet distractions as research holes, social media posts, and daily news distractions, you’ll never write word 1. I’ve stumbled onto an interesting brain hack for myself that helps me avoid those pitfalls: playing “focus music” (often with binaural beats) on a browser tab set to YouTube helps me keep the words flowing.

Hubs and I have also finally gotten into enough of a rhythm with our lives in our new place that we’ve started catching up with our old shows. And added the new one of the Great British Bake-Off – which is as addictive and entertaining as the many who recommended it to us had promised. It’s not as taxing to watch as a series where we have to recollect plotlines we’ve half forgotten in the intervening months. And I discovered the “down-home” feel of the show is supported by an artist who is responsible for the custom renderings of the cooks’ food. An unanticipated benefit to watching has been to learn a new cooking technique or two. Then I ran across this article, that describes the proper way to brown meat.

So I’m busy and productive with writing so far this November, just not on NaNoWriMo. I’ll keep you posted with my progress.

Creating a New World

I realized this weekend that it’s now officially been six months since we moved in – and two months since we added a dervish of a puppy to our household. We’ve created a whole new world for ourselves in just half a year.

If you feel like you don't fit in this world, it is because you are here to help create a new one.

It’s remarkable if you frame it that way.

Animals are known to create their worlds, too. Interesting research on birdsong during the pandemic indicated the reduction in human noise (think cars and heavy traffic), added to the breadth of the soundscape they created. There’s a new world in processed foods, too, of microbes.

And if you really want to challenge yourself on adapting to a new world, try approaching it from a canine’s perspective. Recently there have been more stories in the news and social media about dog maulings, so it’s worth sharing a few tips on non-aggressive ways to approach strange, new dogs. As well as (once again) pointing out that punishment-based dog training is most likely to lead to a fearful, potentially aggressive dog.

From a humor perspective, The Guardian shared a list of 100 ways to do small things to improve your life. Can’t say I agree that just wearing yellow provides instant cheer for me (it tends to make me look sick, and therefore feel self-conscious), but I can say having an ereader on my phone – and therefore access to a whole library in my bag – is a source of significant comfort for me. And I’m happy to report that I found a new-to-me author this weekend (Elizabeth Hunter), who mixed up the most enticing catnip for me with her Cambio Springs series: PNR with a heavy dose of murder mystery and small-town, inter-generational support and interaction. It was great to retreat from the news of the world into such a richly imagined fictional world. Even more interesting to note the different kind of pacing this author used – her key pivots in the story came at the 30% and 60% point of those stories.

My work world has involved a lot more trips in to the office recently, so it was interesting to read others are struggling with escaping the heavy attraction to comfy clothes, and are making new rules about office wear.

Yet, with all these worlds colliding into the one we all agree to share, there are other worlds, still… several of them bouncing in my brain. I’m trying something new and different in my writing life: Co-writing a novel. We’re 5,000+ words in and thoroughly enjoying the process so far, but keeping all other details under wraps to protect this little seedling of a story from too much pressure or speculation.

It’s fired me up for writing my own story again, though I still haven’t actually puts words on a page. I will keep you posted on that, and hope that my readers don’t lose their appetite for the Planet Seekers conclusion.

I Would Drive 500 Miles

Our beloved pets often journey with us lifetime after lifetime... 
-Zen to Zany

With apologies to the Proclaimers… but I would drive 500 more, just to be the [person] who drove a thousand miles right to your door…

This week was a whirlwind of the unexpected and exhausting: Last week we discovered that the breeder where we’ve gotten our second generation of huskies had a four-month-old boy she needed to find a home for, since she’s suffered several traumatic health events in the past year. We’d been tentatively considering expanding our pack now that we’re settled into a new, dog-friendly place of our own; my timeline had been more toward the end of the year, so I could build up the time off to be able to spend the first week with the new baby of the house.

My timeline did not match the universe’s timeline. Wolfgang stormed into our hearts from his first picture, combining traits from two of our first-generation huskies in ways adorable and endearing, and reinforcing my belief that our beloveds do return to us if we open our hearts to that possibility.

Wolfgang, a black and white Siberian Husky, curled into the corner of our kitchen cabinets
(c) Tonya Cannariato 2022

So we drove the nearly thousand-mile round trip last Friday and Saturday and came home with our fourth husky. The first of our third generation. And we were reminded of how much work puppies are – though to be fair to Wolfy, he’s figured out the house training thing already, and after the first few nights of sleep-interruptus, we’re all back to our more regular sleep schedules… Even if that means he’s training us to go to bed earlier than had been our previous practice.

The amount of sleep deprivation we’re recovering from, though, had me wondering all week if I weren’t fighting some bug, since my symptoms included random low-grade fevers, dizziness, and headaches. I was grateful for the flexibility in my job that allowed me to work remotely for those hours I could manage while we figured out how to establish our new normal.

The puppy has given us all a welcome dose of joy, which I’m sure will help improve my resilience to micro-stresses. I would be curious whether, anywhere in the world of language, there is an “untranslatable word” that encompasses the wonder of the echoes of the lifetimes of connections we have with our fur-kids.

Interestingly, there’s been recent research on the nature of our connection with our stuff, that speaks to the fulfillment and completion that can come from furnishing a unique-to-you, comfortable home. How is it that beyond recognition that from a grief-counseling perspective losing a fur-baby is as traumatic as losing a family member, there is no corresponding language about the nature of this chosen-family, cross-species kind of connection?

From a completely non-scientific, non-randomized, non-rigorous review of what other authors in the SFR realm self-report about their animal companions, I find it interesting to note that those who write well about shifters and aliens and the deep, meaningful relationships that can be formed between those beings and humans… all have animal companions living with them. In my experience, the mental flexibility to represent a unique kind of cultural translation between beings of different species who’ve chosen to spend time together in harmony takes first-hand experience to portray with any fluency.

This latest change in our lives means I still haven’t officially started writing book three of my Planet Seekers series, but… it’s not far off now. I’ll keep you posted, as the shifters of my story take shape and impact the choices my characters face.

Cover Reveal: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter

Book Cover: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter by Tonya Cannariato

Presenting… the cover of book 3 of my Planet Seekers series.

I finally have some confidence that I’ll have the energy and time to write the story that concludes this arc, so I”m happy to share the excellent work my cover artist at Sleepy Fox Studio produced for me… last year.

As per my previous practice, I’m adding the word counter to my sidebar so you can track my progress. If all goes well, I should be able to publish this next year.

Wish me luck!

Sacred Space

[woman with a galaxy for the top half of her head] Quote: "Wisdom and compassion flow from simplicity and clarity; from having nothing to prove and nothing to defend." - Barry Magid

Another year round the sun completed. It’s ironic to me that the heat and humidity of my least favorite season also means adding a number to my age. This year, there was a lot to celebrate, but very little time to do so. I’m spending more time at the office again these days, notwithstanding reporting that the “3-day return to the office is a dud” or that “the return to the office isn’t working“. As with most things, generic answers don’t fit all circumstances, and certain roles and industries require more flexibility than others.

Still, I miss the days of being fully remote, now that we have a house where I can create endless projects for myself. Our solar installation passed county inspection at the end of July, and the electric company estimates our system will be approved to go live by the middle of August. The first phase of our landscaping revamp went in shortly before my birthday, and now that I have my first raised bed in place, I’m spending more time searching for asparagus and artichokes than words and wisdom. I hadn’t ever considered that in zone 7 (as Virginia is) you could have a late-summer round of planting to allow for a late fall harvest. And we’re starting to get acquainted with the local wildlife – just this afternoon, I watched a young buck munching the tall grass in our back meadow, and this evening I discovered an eastern rat snake curled up and digesting (and being harassed by a mockingbird) at the foot of a tree at the front of our property. There’s also apparently a fox who’s mightily interested in the raised bed, as our cameras have recorded his investigations at 10-minute intervals the past few nights. All of which makes for an interesting, local interpretation of the wildlife infrastructure movement underfoot around global roadways.

Spending time at home with these kinds of projects has certainly given me time to listen to my own heartbeat. Research about the power of interoception points to that being a reliable marker for emotional intelligence, which I find an interesting commentary about humanity’s choice to live in cities, where ubiquitous mechanical noise makes it much harder to pay attention to the subtle signals coming from within. More obvious are the signals for weariness.

I’ve written in the past about the challenges I face as a congenital night owl. In the past couple months, I’ve run across two more articles highlighting the reasons to pay attention to the impact of those habits. The first reiterates findings about the increased likelihood of night owls to have shortened life spans, and the second points to the unrecognized cognitive deficiencies associated with sleep deprivation. We have been doing better recently at enforcing earlier bedtimes on ourselves, though my increase in office hours has ended up meaning a net-zero impact.

In a word, while we’re mostly settled, we still don’t have a rhythm that allows us to fully relax into the wonder of our new home. Nor even fully catch up with the correspondence I’d promised to answer in my last blog post, nearly two months ago.

It seems the state of the world in general is rushing forward, though to what end remains murky. Reporting on how democracies spy on their citizens compounds reporting on our post-Roe world. I hope more people are willing to find the space described in “How to stay open and curious in hard conversations,” since we’ve all been wrong about something at least once in our lives. It would mark significant progress if our society could back away from the polarization that seems endemic now, and recognize the shades within absolutist positions.

In the end, seeing how long it takes to get things done, I suspect I’ll remain in this liminal state for another month or three. Gayla and I have been discussing the possibility of kicking off a new, co-written project, but she, too, is caught in the whirlwinds of change, so we’ll see how far we get – especially as we have officially zero words actually written.

As always, I’ll keep you posted here.

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